A peak at the thinking behind our rebrand

I think it's cheesy.

That was a friend's response when I asked her what she thought of the name, UFO.

You mean for your company name? I think it's cheesy.

But she was right. It WAS a little cheesy.

But then again, TESLA was pretty cheesy too.

Now hold your horses...I'm not comparing us to TESLA. That actually WOULD be cheesy.

I'm making a point here that when I heard the name Tesla back in the day, I connected that with Nicola Tesla, the inventor of the alternating current, and the guy from whom Thomas Edison may or may not have stolen ideas.

And because of those pre-existing memory structures, the name, Tesla, felt incredibly cheesy to me.

But now?

It doesn't.

It just feels like a car company.

The meaning of the word, Tesla, in my mind has changed, because that's what words do...their meanings change as different memory structures are created in our minds.

Now, when I hear the word Tesla, it doesn't have that same revenge-of-the-nerds feel to it feels cool, it feels modern, it feels cutting edge. It represents a company disrupting the auto industry. It's almost completely lost its connection to Nicola Tesla in my mind.

And so I wasn't worried when my friend said she thought it was cheesy.

In fact, I was HOPING for a reaction like that. And here's why:

We know memory is strongly influenced by emotion.

So if you FEEL an emotion when you hear our name, that's almost universally a good thing (barring some really strong negative association).

We've all heard the phrase, "there's no such thing as bad press." The idea being that any press is good press. Any exposure is good exposure. Even when bad, exposure is, by definition, good.

I'm not sure many marketers would entirely agree with that statement, but like many cliche's, there's a kernel of truth in there.

And it stems from how memory works.

The more emotion you feel when you hear the name, UFO, whether good or bad, the more likely you'll remember it.

And as a small brand looking to grow, our goal is to influence those memory structures as efficiently as possible.

And the way to do that is to have a distinctive brand that elicits SOME emotion...but maybe not a risky level of emotion. Benign emotion is what we're going for.

So it's distinctive: no other agencies or companies that I can think of are named UFO. And it feels a little cheesy, which is pretty much perfect.

The result is we get to spend less on marketing because our name is distinctive and easier to remember.

Plus, let's be honest, space is rad! The name sort of fits us.

The word, UFO, has associations with space and the future and advanced technology, but also a little bit of weirdness. It actually IS a little cheesy. My friend was right. But WE'RE a little cheesy. These things all suit who we are.

And very much like the name TESLA, the meaning of the word UFO will change over time in the minds of our clients and people that know us. It'll eventually come to represent us and their experience with our brand.

UFO has a few more practical benefits as well:

  • It's only 3 letters, which means we can use our entire company name even in small spaces like our website's favicon. We don't have to worry about different brand marks.
  • Because it's unique and only 3 letters, we don't have to design a fancy logo. Our logo is literally the word, UFO, in Roboto font, with 9 pixel character spacing. Done.
  • It also lends itself to the black and white style you find on our new site.
  • That style is amazing because it's elegant, feels classy and high end, but it's stupid simple. We pumped out 4 variations on our logo in different colors in 10 minutes and they all looked good. I'm a huge advocate of ruthless simplification because building a business is already pretty damn complex.
  • Plus, nobody's using a white on black color scheme. Nobody. It's like it's so simple that nobody ever thought to use it.

Now there's a case to be made that having a "weird" name that elicits ANY negative emotion, benign or not, is not good. But part of the challenge in receiving feedback is you can't really take it at face value. People will tell you what their conscious mind is aware of, but we know that the conscious mind is a story-teller, and it tends to take a lot of creative liberty, which means the thoughts our customers are able to articulate in interviews are never fully representative of what's truly motivating them. So it's important to look at feedback at a much deeper level.

On the surface, we considered the idea that a marketing director thinking of hiring us might have a slight hesitation in justifying that decision to their boss simply because of our name. But we also had to consider that we're in an extremely saturated industry. Pick a lame agency name. It's taken. Very little is original in this space because of how saturated it is. So the most important thing for us is to be distinct. To differentiate ourselves from all the rest. Because we ARE different from all the rest.

We have to be willing to be creative and a little edgy, not only because that's just who we are, but because it's also how we stand out in a crowded market.

And that's true even if it comes at the expense of maybe a slight initial hesitation at our name. Because our clients don't hire us cold; they research us, they see us speak, they follow us via email or social media. This isn't an impulse purchase in the checkout aisle. Hiring us a deliberate decision.

We're creative, we're different, but we're awesome and we drive incredible results for our clients, and our new brand communicates that.

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John Crenshaw
John Crenshaw
UFO company founder. 15+ years experience in performance marketing.
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